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Hot/Wet Environmental Degradation of Honeycomb

Sandwich Structure Representative of F/A-18:


Flatwise Tension Strength

T.C. Radtke, A. Charon and R.Vodicka

Airframes and Engines Division


Aeronautical and Maritime Research Laboratory

DSTO-TR-0908

ABSTRACT
Aluminium honeycomb structure is widely used in the F/A-18 to save weight, however it is
susceptible to degradation by water. The US Navy has experienced in-flight failures of
honeycomb components such as the rudder which are believed to be due to moisture
induced degradation. A long-term (52 week) environmental exposure trial was conducted
to determine the effects on the flatwise tension (FWT) strength of honeycomb sandwich
structure. A conditioning temperature of 70°C was chosen coupled with high-humidity
exposure (85% and 95% R.H) to simulate a worst-case hot/wet environment. The trial
simulated specimens in which moisture could freely enter the core (direct ingress) and those
which were fully sealed and allowed only moisture diffusion through the epoxy matrix of
the skins (diffusion ingress). The FWT strength was measured at 4, 9, 16, 32 and 52 weeks
exposure. The FWT values decreased by about 40-50% when tested at 104°C and about 25%
when tested at room temperature after exposure periods greater than 16 weeks. Both the
direct ingress and diffusion ingress samples showed similar FWT strength losses but
markedly different modes of failure. Diffusion specimens failed cohesively in all cases while
the direct ingress samples failed predominantly adhesively after an exposure time of about 9
weeks. Subsequent drying of the samples exposed to the conditioning environment showed
that diffusion ingress samples recovered most of their original FWT strength but direct
ingress samples recovered only about 70% of their original baseline strength. This work
shows that excluding water from within honeycomb sandwich structures is of primary
importance in order to prevent permanent bond degradation and corrosion of the core.

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© Commonwealth of Australia 1999
AR-011-146
September 1999

APPROVED FOR PUBLIC RELEASE


Hot/Wet Environmental Degradation of
Honeycomb Sandwich Structure Representative
of F/A-18: Flatwise Tension Strength

Executive Summary
The use of honeycomb sandwich structures is widespread on aircraft such as the F/A-
18 and F-111. They provide stiff lightweight structures which are ideal for control
surfaces and other exterior structure. In the case of the F/A-18 aircraft the sandwich
panels are constructed using graphite-epoxy skins bonded to an aluminium
honeycomb core with a high-temperature adhesive. The durability of these structures
relies heavily on the integrity of the adhesive bond between the skin and core as well
as the core itself. The environmental durability of graphite-epoxy skins is generally
very good unless they are physically damaged.
The adhesive bond and core are affected in service by the presence of moisture.
Moisture can enter the structure by a number of means. Free-water can enter the
structure through damage to the skins as well as through damaged or degraded seals
or bonds which can create corrosion as water fills the cells of the honeycomb core.
Moisture can also diffuse into the epoxy matrix of the composite skins over a long
period of time but moisture entering by this mechanism does not ‘pool’ in the core as
‘liquid water’.
A good method of evaluating the skin to core bond is the flatwise tension strength test
(FWT). This examines the strength of this bond under tension applied to the skin. A
test trial was devised and implemented to allow the evaluation of the effects of
hot/wet environments on the durability of the skin to core adhesive bond. Two types
of specimens were evaluated, one to simulate direct ingress of moisture into the core
(holes were drilled in the skins) and the other to simulate the effects of moisture
diffusion as would be experienced for a perfectly healthy panel. Hot/wet conditions of
70°C and high humidity levels were used to simulate extreme tropical exposure. FWT
strengths were then evaluated at periods of 4, 9, 16, 32 and 52 weeks.
The results show that FWT values decrease by about 40-50% for specimens tested at
104°C and about 25% for those tested at room temperature. For the diffusion ingress
samples (simulating a healthy panel) these losses could be recovered if the samples
were dried at 90°C for 4 weeks. The direct ingress samples (holes drilled in the skins)
however recovered only about 70% of their baseline strength after drying. This shows
that water entering the core, permanently degrades the adhesive bonds while diffused
moisture can be removed by drying to restore original strength. The failure modes
between the two samples types was also markedly different. The diffusion ingress
samples show cohesive failure in all cases (ie: through the adhesive) while direct
ingress samples failed at the adhesive to core interface.
The work highlights the damage caused to the adhesive bonds in honeycomb
sandwich structures if water is allowed to enter the core. This degrades the adhesive
bonds irreversibly and will corrode the core over the long-term. It is therefore vital that
efforts are continued to minimise the possibility of moisture entering honeycomb
sandwich structures by ensuring the skins are not damaged and that all seals and
adhesive bonds are in good order.
Authors
T.C. Radtke
Airframes and Engines Division

Tom Radtke graduated from Capricornia Institute of Advanced


Education with an Associate Diploma in Mechanical Engineering
(1986), from Swinburne University of Technology with a Degree of
Bachelor of Technology (1993) and from the University of South
Australia with a Graduate Certificate in Management - Scientific
Leadership (1997). He has contributed to a broad range of propulsion
system and structural composites programs for aircraft repair and life
extension. The studies have included; the mechanics of scarf repairs
for highly strained graphite/epoxy honeycomb structure,
environmental durability aspects of adhesively bonded composite
repair systems, fatigue and creep-fatigue interactions of various
nickel-based superalloys, and fretting fatigue of titanium alloys. He
currently works in the Aircraft Structural Integrity area where he
manages the Division’s Fatigue and Fracture Laboratory.
____________________ ________________________________________________

A. Charon
Airframes and Engines Division

Aaron Charon graduated from the Royal Melbourne Institute of


Technology with a Bachelor of Aerospace Engineering (Hons.) in
1994. On completion of his degree he held several short-term
contracts within the major airlines including Qantas and Ansett
Australia as technical support engineer and with Australian Defence
Industries (ADI) as project engineer working on the Minehunter
project. He later joined the Aeronautical and Maritime Research
Laboratory in 1997 as a contract engineer primarily with the task of
developing a mechanical inspection tool for detecting moisture in
honeycomb sandwich structures. He is currently involved in research
into the environmental degradation of composite honeycomb sandwich
structures and is particularly interested in developing tools for
quantifying the level of degradation within these structures.
____________________ ________________________________________________

R. Vodicka
Airframes and Engines Division

Roger Vodicka graduated BSc. (Hons.) from Monash University and


joined AMRL in 1990. He currently works in the area of composite
materials and crack-patching repair technology. Current working
projects include moisture diffusion properties of epoxies, battle
damage repair, environmental certification of composite materials and
composite manufacturing methods. He is currently the task manager
for the Composite Repair and Engineering Development Program
(CREDP).
____________________ ________________________________________________
Contents

1. INTRODUCTION .............................................................................................................. 1

2. F/A-18 HONEYCOMB SANDWICH CONSTRUCTION........................................... 2

3. DEGRADATION OF HONEYCOMB STRUCTURE .................................................. 3


3.1 Moisture Diffusion Through Undamaged Sandwich Structure................................ 4
3.2 Moisture Transport Through Damaged Structure........................................................ 5
3.3 Numerical Modelling of Diffusion in Sandwich Structures...................................... 6

4. EXPERIMENTAL APPROACH ....................................................................................... 8


4.1 Environmental Conditioning............................................................................................ 8
4.2 FWT Specimen Preparation ............................................................................................ 10
4.2.1 Panel Material & Manufacturing Process ........................................................... 10
4.2.2 Panel Cutting & Test Material Distribution........................................................ 11
4.2.3 Edge Sealing ............................................................................................................ 11
4.2.4 Direct Moisture Ingress Test Coupons ................................................................ 12
4.2.5 Diffusion Ingress Test Coupons ........................................................................... 13
4.3 Flatwise Tension (FWT) Test Coupon Manufacture .................................................. 13
4.4 FWT Bonding Jigs ............................................................................................................. 14
4.5 FWT Test Procedure & Equipment................................................................................ 15
4.6 FWT Hot Testing Procedure............................................................................................ 16

5. DRY RECOVERY OF FWT STRENGTH ..................................................................... 17

6. RESULTS ...................................................................................................................... 18
6.1 Fractographic observations on FWT coupons.............................................................. 20
6.2 Dry Recovery of FWT Strength ...................................................................................... 24
6.2.1 SRM Dry Recovery ................................................................................................. 24
6.2.2 Diffusion Based Dry Recovery ............................................................................. 24

7. DISCUSSION ................................................................................................................... 26

8. SUMMARY ...................................................................................................................... 27

9. RECOMMENDATIONS................................................................................................. 29

10. REFERENCES................................................................................................................... 29
DSTO-TR-0908

1. Introduction
Environmental degradation of adhesive bonds within graphite-epoxy skinned
aluminium honeycomb sandwich panels is of significant concern due to the
implications for structural integrity and airworthiness. The focus of this work is to
understand the nature of degradation of adhesive bonds by either liquid water or
humid air in honeycomb structures relevant to the materials, structures and processes
used on the F/A-18 aircraft.
Recent in-flight failures of honeycomb sandwich structure components on US Navy
F/A-18 aircraft have created concern for RAAF aircraft fleets. These failures have been
attributed to the presence of liquid water in the components leading to a loss of
adhesive bond strength and corrosion of the aluminium honeycomb core. Degradation
of the adhesive bonds in these structures has been severe in some cases with reductions
in component strength of up to 90% reported by the U.S Navy (NADEP-NI) using
PORTA-PULL tests. The RAAF has also reported the presence of corrosion damage in
honeycomb sandwich structures on F-111 aircraft as well as poor bond-strength for
affected areas. Replacement or repair of honeycomb sandwich structure is expensive
and is unlikely to be a long-term solution if the root cause of the problem is not
identified.
Work by QETE [1] found that 50% of F/A-18 rudders in Canadian Forces service
contained moisture as liquid water. Work at Bombardier Aerospace Group by
Vallerand [2] describes the entry points for water as being a consequence of poor seals
around fasteners and other entry points on the control surfaces. The ingress of water
into honeycomb sandwich panels on the F/A-18 aircraft has been the subject of Task S
of the Composite Repair and Engineering Development Program (CREDP).
The repair of components that contain moisture as liquid water can also pose major
problems for high temperature adhesively bonded repair operations. Water present in
the honeycomb core can create high pressures at elevated temperatures (>100°C) which
can seriously damage the component. A previous discussion paper [3] by DSTO-
AMRL discusses issues related to moisture ingress into panels and the implications for
elevated temperature adhesive bonded repair procedures.
A flatwise tension (FWT) test program was developed and initiated to investigate the
integrity of the adhesive bond between the honeycomb core and the graphite epoxy
face sheet (fillet bond) when exposed to an aggressive environment representative of
the worst case service environment. This was designed to gain an understanding of
the environmental durability of honeycomb sandwich structures and the type and
levels of degradation, which have been observed under service conditions.
The aggressive environment was represented by either surface exposure of the
honeycomb sandwich structure to humid air, or by exposure of the honeycomb
sandwich structure core to a condensing environment to produce a liquid water
exposure condition. This latter condition was termed direct moisture ingress. Under
normal service conditions composite structures will absorb moisture from the service

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environment through the surface layers of the composite structure via the diffusion
process. The humid air exposure condition was included in the study to quantify any
degradation associated with moisture ingress by diffusion and to gain a broader
understanding of the failure locus.
The FWT test is also identical in principle to the PORTA-PULL test which is used in the
field to evaluate the skin to core fillet bond strength in honeycomb sandwich structure.
Thus the results of this program will be comparable to results taken in the field using
the PORTA-PULL technique.

2. F/A-18 Honeycomb Sandwich Construction


Composite-skinned honeycomb-sandwich panels are utilised for many stiff, light and
structurally efficient aircraft components. Sandwich panels on the F/A-18 aircraft
include the rudder, trailing edge flaps, horizontal stabilators as well as access doors
along the fuselage undercarriage.

A honeycomb sandwich structure typically comprises three main elements. The


facesheets, the core and adhesive layers. On a typical F/A-18 component the
facesheets are manufactured from AS4/3501-6 graphite/epoxy composite and the
honeycomb core is made of aluminium coated with a chromate based anti-corrosion
layer. The adhesive that bonds the facesheet or skin to the core, known as the fillet
bond, is Cytec FM300 adhesive, which cures at 177°C. The honeycomb core is
constructed of ribbons of aluminium foil bonded at discrete locations with a phenolic-
nitrile adhesive. The area of contact is termed the node and the bond between the
ribbons is called the node bond. Once cured, the core is expanded into the final
honeycomb core shape. Core cell sizes and densities vary across the aircraft. The
aluminium honeycomb core used in this study is representative of that used in current
RAAF F/A-18 aircraft. Figure 2 shows a schematic of a typical honeycomb sandwich
structure.

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Facesheet/skin

Core

Skin to core
/fillet bond

Figure 1 Schematic of honeycomb sandwich structure (side view)

3. Degradation of Honeycomb Structure


The durability of honeycomb sandwich structure components is of importance as many
are used for control surfaces. Honeycomb-sandwich panels rely on the effective use of
sealants and adhesive bonds to prevent water from entering the component. Service
experience has shown that moisture can enter these panels potentially leading to
corrosion of the aluminium honeycomb core and degradation of the adhesive bonds.
The mechanism by which the moisture can enter the structure can only be either by
direct ingress of liquid water, or by diffusion of moisture from the service
environment.

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Figure 2 shows the degradation of adhesive node bonds in a honeycomb sandwich


beam exposed to a tropical environment for a long time period. The beam illustrates
both node and fillet bond degradation. There is no skin to core (fillet) adhesive left on
the honeycomb core indicating an adhesive failure mechanism. The gaps between
many of the honeycomb nodes are a consequence of extensive node bond degradation.

Node bond
degradation
along core
ribbon
direction.

Also note lack


of any
residual skin
to core
adhesive.

Figure 2 Degradation of node and fillet bonds in aluminium honeycomb core structure

Moisture can enter the sandwich structure by a number of means:


1. poor or damaged or degraded seals around penetrations or the edges of panels
2. direct ingress through damaged facesheets (skins)
3. diffusion of moisture through the epoxy matrix in the composite skin

3.1 Moisture Diffusion Through Undamaged Sandwich Structure

Moisture in the form of humid air can transport into undamaged composite sandwich
structure by diffusion through the epoxy matrix in the composite facesheets as well as
through the adhesive which makes up the skin fillet bond and node bonds.
For NOMEX and other polymer-based honeycomb materials, moisture may diffuse
through the honeycomb walls themselves. Recent work published by Cise and Lakes
[4] examined the moisture ingress through three types of Korex honeycomb. Korex
honeycomb is a paper pulp material dipped in liquid polymer. They found that
moisture could diffuse through the structure if a small area of the core was exposed to
high humidity. The diffusion rate was observed to be greater along the ribbon

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direction. This was due to the construction of the core material; the core being joined
along the ribbon direction by adhesive which allows water to diffuse through it.
Little is known about the rate of diffusion through aluminium honeycomb sandwich
structure. Although humid air cannot diffuse through the aluminium walls of the
honeycomb, both the node bonds and skin-core bonds can allow the diffusion of
moisture. Preliminary results from tests conducted at DSTO-AMRL using aluminium
core with graphite/epoxy skins shows the bias of moisture transport along the core
ribbon direction for a sample immersed in water at 70°C for four weeks (Figure 3).
Figure 3 illustrates the way moisture diffuses preferentially along the ribbon direction
of the core causing adhesive failure (ie: areas where no adhesive remains on the core).
The region of adhesive failure is up to 3 cells from the sample edge in the ribbon
direction while in the transverse direction only about one cell shows adhesive failure.
This demonstrates the diffusion of moisture through the adhesive which joins the
nodes along the “ribbons”. Note that the sample also shows signs of corrosion along
the perimeter cells.

Ribbon
Adhesive
failure Direction

Cohesive
failure

Figure 3 Degradation of fillet bonds (effect of ribbon direction)

3.2 Moisture Transport Through Damaged Structure

Damage to honeycomb sandwich structures can greatly increase the rate of moisture
transport. The damage can involve:
Poor sealing: This is the ingress of water into a sandwich structure due to degraded or
damaged seals. This allows liquid water to enter the structure.

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Damage to facesheets: Impact damage to composite facesheets can create paths for
liquid water to enter the sandwich structure. Typical aircraft flights can effectively
drive liquid water into the structure due to the pressure differential between ground
and high altitude. Work by Augl [5] has also shown that barely noticeable impact
damage to composite face sheets can increase the effective transport rate of moisture
compared to an undamaged laminate by about two orders of magnitude.

3.3 Numerical Modelling of Diffusion in Sandwich Structures

Numerical modelling of moisture transport in composite skinned honeycomb


sandwich structures was performed in order to evaluate the best method to condition
and dry honeycomb sandwich structures. A good model of this process allows the
estimation of the time required to reach an equilibrium moisture content within all
parts of the honeycomb sandwich structure (ie: both the composite facesheets and the
adhesive bonds). It was also desired to establish whether the honeycomb sandwich
structure could be effectively modelled by just considering the diffusion of moisture
through only one side of the composite facesheet (ie: the core effectively insulates the
inner side of the facesheet from humid air).
The diffusion of moisture through AS4/3501-6 composite has been studied extensively
by Clark et al. [6] and these diffusion constants are used in this model. A one-
dimensional FORTRAN code to solve this problem has been produced by Augl and
Berger [7]. This code allows the modelling of diffusion through multi-layer sandwich
structures under a range of exposure environments. Table 1 shows the parameters
used to model a honeycomb sandwich structure comprised of 10 ply graphite epoxy
skins (AS4/3501-6) bonded with FM300 adhesive (0.15mm thick) to 50 mm thick
aluminium core. The core is modelled as a block of air as the aluminium in the core
does not absorb moisture.

Table 1 Input parameters for numerical model of honeycomb sandwich structure


Material Thickness Diffusion Solubility* Density
(mm) Constant# (g/100g)
(g/cm3)
(cm2/s)
AS4 3501-6 1.5 3.7*10-9 1.6 1.5
FM300 0.15 3*10-8 4.0 1.3
Al. Core 50 >10-2 2.1 0.08
FM300 0.15 3*10-8 4.0 1.3
AS4 3501-6 1.5 3.7*10-9 1.6 1.5
* at 85% R.H
# at 70°C

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Figure 4 shows the results from the model for the panel exposed to 70°C and 85% R.H
for time periods up to 120 days. It is clear that the rate limiting step in the diffusion
process is that through the composite skins. Moisture content in the core is in
equilibrium with the adhesive layer on the inner side of the facesheet (x ≈ 1.5 mm) at all
times. This is expected as the diffusion rate in the facesheets is over seven orders of
magnitude lower than in the core. This demonstrates that the core does not
significantly affect the diffusion through the facesheet and that the moisture content
within the core can be effectively modelled by considering single-sided diffusion
through the composite facesheet.
Therefore both the moisture levels on conditioning and drying of composite sandwich
structures can be tracked using traveller coupons made of the same layup and material
as the composite facesheets. For an undamaged sandwich structure a coupon of twice
the thickness of the facesheet / skin, exposed on both surfaces and placed in an
identical environment, is required to track the moisture content level.

1.0
Normalised Moisture Concentration

120 days

0.7
60
50
0.5
40

30
0.2
20

10
0.0
0.0 0.5 1.0 1.5 2.0
Distance x (mm)

Figure 4 Diffusion of moisture into typical graphite/skinned honeycomb sandwich panel


(Table 1). Only the first 2mm of the sandwich structure is shown. Values are
symmetric about the core centre.

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4. Experimental Approach
An experimenmtal program was designed to simulate environmentally induced
failures related to degradation of the adhesive bond between the core and the
composite facesheet (the skin fillet bond). The flatwise tension (FWT) test was chosen
since it is economical and is a discerning test for the integrity of the skin to core fillet
bond.
The experimental program undertaken at AMRL is detailed in Table 2. This defines the
matrix for FWT testing. Testing was conducted both at room temperature and at 104°C
(220F). Elevated temperature testing was designed to simulate maximum flight
temperatures experienced on the F/A-18 during low altitude supersonic flight.
Specimens consist of both the diffusion type simulating the effects of humid air on
undamaged panels as well as direct ingress simulating liquid water ingress through
damage to the composite facesheets or poor sealant integrity.
The basic philosophy of the test program was to simulate the durability of both
damaged and undamaged graphite/epoxy skinned aluminium honeycomb sandwich
structures.

4.1 Environmental Conditioning

Specimens were conditioned using two environmental conditions, direct and diffusion
ingress.
Direct Ingress: This simulated the ingress of liquid water into a honeycomb sandwich
structure which may occur due to poor sealing of the component or damage to the
composite facesheets. This was simulated in the laboratory by drilling holes into one
side of the facesheet above the centre of each honeycomb cell. A condensing humidity
environment of 95% at 70°C was then applied simulating liquid water pooling into the
damaged structure. This environment was provided by a TABAI climatic chamber.
Specimens were conditioned in this environment for periods given in Table 2. Ten ply
thick travellers were used to monitor the weight gain during the exposure period since
diffusion in these samples can occur from both sides of the composite facesheets. A
moisture uptake of 1.8% was observed in the composite skins over the exposure
period.
Diffusion Ingress: This simulated a perfectly healthy panel subjected to an
environment representative of a worst case tropical environment. A conditioning
temperature of 70°C was chosen as a level representative of exposure to high ambient
temperature in conjunction with high levels of solar radiation. A humidity level of 85%
was chosen on the basis of a worst case tropical humidity level as defined by MIL-
HDBK-17. Moisture ingress in these specimens was confined to diffusion by humid air
through the composite skins only. After conditioning to moisture equilibrium this

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should represent the state of honeycomb sandwich panels which have been in service
for many years. The conditioning environment was provided by a Heraeus Votsch
climatic test cabinet (HC 4055). This gave a stable and accurate environment to within
±1 °C and ±3% R.H.
The moisture content of the coupons was tracked using a traveller coupon of twice the
skin thickness (ie: 20 ply). A moisture uptake of 1.6% was observed in the composite
skins over the exposure period. Initially diffusion ingress specimens were to be tested
at time intervals after moisture equilibrium was established in the specimen. The
numerical model of the problem estimated this to be about 120 days or 16 weeks (see
Figure 4). It was later decided to begin testing prior to equilibrium at 9 weeks (see
Table 2) in order to assess the effects of intermediate moisture content levels.

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Table 2 FWT Test matrix

Exposure Condition Room temperature Hot (104°C)


(20°C)

Number of test repeats


Dry Baseline tests 5 5
Direct moisture ingress by
drilled skin and a condensing
environment
70°C and 95% R.H
4 weeks 5 5
9 weeks 5 5
16 weeks 5 5
32 weeks 5 5
52 weeks 5 5
Totals 25 25
Diffusion Ingress through
skins in 70°C, 85% RH
environment
9 weeks 3 3
Equilibrium condition = 16 5 5
weeks
32 weeks 5 5
52 weeks 5 5
Totals 18 18

4.2 FWT Specimen Preparation

4.2.1 Panel Material & Manufacturing Process

Two nominally 700 mm x 600 mm graphite epoxy honeycomb sandwich panels were
manufactured to simulate representative F/A-18 honeycomb sandwich structure.
The core material was 5/8” deep, 5056 alloy, CRIII coated aluminium honeycomb, of
cell size 3/16” and density 5.7 pcf. The skins were manufactured 10 plies thick from
AS4/3501-6 graphite/epoxy pre-preg and cured according to the manufacturer’s

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specifications. The ply lay-up for the skins was (+45, -45, 0, 90, 0)s. Cytec FM300 film
adhesive was used to bond the skins to the aluminium honeycomb core using the
manufacturer’s recommended cure cycle.
Panels for room temperature testing were designated R while those to be tested at 104
°C (220 F) designated H.
4.2.2 Panel Cutting & Test Material Distribution

Each of the two manufactured panels were cut wet, with water, using a diamond
tipped circular saw, into sections with dimensions as shown in Figure 5. These sections
were further cut into 50mm by 50mm test coupons in accordance with the requirement
for FWT specimen manufacture as given in ASTM C 297-94. Two sets of test specimens
were prepared one for each of the room temperature (R) and hot (H) test conditions.

Figure 5. Panel breakdown. Two panels were cut identically for room temperature (R) and hot
(H) tests respectively. These sections were then cut into 50mm square test coupons
as per ASTM C 297-94.

4.2.3 Edge Sealing

All coupons were edge-sealed on all sides , as depicted in Figure 6, using Courtalds
PR1422B2 sealant to minimise corrosion of the aluminium honeycomb core over the
environmental exposure period. PR1422B2 sealant is a polysulfide rubber compound,
which is typically used as a fuel tank sealant in the aviation industry.

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Figure 6 FWT coupons edge sealed using polysulfide rubber sealant compound. Diffusion
ingress coupons are pictured; direct moisture ingress samples were treated
identically.

4.2.4 Direct Moisture Ingress Test Coupons

Panels R1 and H1 were drilled wet from one side using diamond tipped drills of
diameter 0.75 mm. Drilling was undertaken using CNC equipment to drill through the
skin and ideally enter the core near to the centre of a cell. Figure 7 shows a typical
direct moisture ingress sample. Skins were drilled from one side only to enable humid
air to condense and pool in the core as liquid water.

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Figure 7 Direct moisture ingress FWT coupon showing the 0.75 mm holes drilled through the
top skin into the nominal centre of each honeycomb core cell.

4.2.5 Diffusion Ingress Test Coupons

These coupons represent healthy honeycomb sandwich structure thus the 10 ply skins
on these specimens were not drilled.

4.3 Flatwise Tension (FWT) Test Coupon Manufacture

On reaching the exposure period for the given condition, a batch of up to 5 coupons
was removed from the conditioning environment, the loading blocks were bonded to
the coupon and the assembly tested in its respective condition (room temperature or
hot). Typically 3 or 4 coupons were tested and the “spare” coupons either continued
conditioning or were removed and kept for other studies.
To enable tensile loads to be applied through the skins of the coupons, loading blocks
were bonded to the FWT coupon skins using a suitable adhesive. The bonded assembly
was then held in the loading fixture by pins and loaded to failure in a mechanical test
machine to establish the FWT strength for the given exposure condition. Valid FWT
tests were characterised by failure either of the adhesive bondline between the
honeycomb core and the face-sheet or by tensile failure of the aluminium honeycomb
core. Failure at the adhesive bondline between the loading block and the FWT coupon

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skin indicated the bond integrity at that interface was insufficient to evaluate the FWT
of the skin to core bond or the FWT strength of the core.
Significant consideration was given to both surface preparation and adhesive type for
bonding the loading blocks to the FWT coupons. Of obvious concern was the influence
of liquid water and its effect on the bond integrity to enable valid FWT assessment. For
the direct moisture ingress specimens, it was evident that after conditioning, these
coupons would contain liquid water that had condensed in the honeycomb cells.
Similarly, for the diffusion samples the skins could contain moisture levels up to about
1.6% by weight at equilibrium. At high curing temperatures, these moisture sources
could affect the bond integrity between the loading block and specimen face.
Therefore the room temperature test coupons were bonded using low temperature
adhesives to avoid potential boiling of water in the specimens as well as to avoid
drying the coupons prior to testing. Elevated temperature test coupons needed to be
bonded using an adhesive that could withstand the test temperature after absorbing
some moisture from the composite skins during cure.
After a series of trials Hysol EA9320NA was selected to bond the loading blocks to the
specimen for the room temperature tests. This adhesive was cured at room
temperature for 8 hours then post-cured for a further 2 hours at 50 °C. For the hot tests
(104°C) Cytec FM 300-2 structural adhesive was cured at 120°C for 90 minutes.

4.4 FWT Bonding Jigs

To obtain the true FWT strength of a bond, eccentricity in loading should be eliminated
and a purely tensile load applied. For this reason, the bonding jig shown in Figure 8
was developed to ensure the bonding surfaces between the loading blocks and
specimen remained parallel during the curing process. A spring was used to maintain
a constant pressure on the adhesive during the cure cycle. Both room temperature and
elevated temperature cure cycles were accommodated using this jig.

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Figure 8 FWT loading block bonding jig

4.5 FWT Test Procedure & Equipment

All testing and manufacture of the FWT samples was in accordance with ASTM C 297-
94. The flatwise tension specimen complete with loading blocks was loaded into a self-
aligning loading fixture. Tensile load was applied using an Instron Model 1185 electro-
mechanical test machine. Data was recorded using a PC-based data acquisition system.
Some initial testing was conducted using a cross head displacement rate of 0.5
mm/min. Using this rate, the failure load was reached in under 3 minutes and this
was not in accordance with the ASTM standard. All subsequent tests were conducted
using a crosshead displacement rate of 0.2 mm/min with failure occurring between 3
and 6 minutes in accordance with the ASTM standard. Figure 9 shows a typical FWT
test setup within a heater cabinet.

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DSTO-TR-0908

Figure 9 FWT Test set up in mechanical testing machine

4.6 FWT Hot Testing Procedure

The hot (104°C) test environment was achieved using an Instron model 3111 heater
cabinet mounted in the Instron 1185 test machine load frame. In order to maintain an
accurate test condition of 104°C at the FM300 skin to core adhesive bondline, a spare
FWT coupon (dummy specimen) was used to calibrate the operation. The dummy
specimen complete with loading blocks was fitted into the loading fixture along with
two thermocouples, one located at the centre of the specimen at the core to skin
interface (in the FM300 bondline), and the other located at the top loading block
surface. A temperature calibration curve was established as shown in Figure 10. The
typical specimen soak time was approximately 30 minutes for the FM300 bondline to
reach the test temperature of 104°C. All hot FWT tests were monitored by one
thermocouple at the loading block surface and commenced when the temperature of
this surface reached 104°C (220F) as shown in Figure 10.

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DSTO-TR-0908

106 Core
Surface

105 Start test here t = 103°C


specimen

Temperature °C 104

Test end tspecimen= 104.5°C


103

102 Typical test duration (Cross Head Speed = 0.2 mm / min)

25 26 27 28 29 30 31
Time (minutes)

Figure 10: Adhesive bondline temperature calibration curve for hot FWT tests at 104°C

5. Dry Recovery of FWT Strength


The dry recovery of FWT specimens was investigated to ascertain whether any
reduction of flatwise tension strength, attributed to environmental degradation or
plasticisation of the adhesive, could be recovered by the application of a drying cycle.
The assumption was made that complete dry recovery would occur when the
composite facesheets were fully dried as predicted by numerical diffusion models or
traveller coupons.
Two methods of dry recovery were investigated. Firstly, one based on a Structural
Repair Manual (SRM) drying procedure and secondly one based on numerical
modelling of the diffusion process.

1. A ‘water removal’ cycle as per F/A-18 SRM-250 WP 005 consisting of drying the
specimen for 6 hours at 70°C. The FWT strength after applying this drying cycle
for a specimen which saw 9 weeks of direct moisture ingress was then evaluated.
2. A more aggressive drying cycle using 90 °C was applied to diffusion ingress FWT
coupons having had 16 weeks exposure. The FWT strength was then assessed after
the specimens were dried at 90°C for time periods of up to four weeks. A
temperature of 90°C was chosen as it is below the boiling point of water and
unlikely to create significant steam pressure.
Utilising the diffusion model developed earlier the time taken to dry the composite
skins was calculated at 4 weeks at 90°C. Samples that had been exposed to direct and
diffusion ingress environments for up to one year were dried at 90°C for 4 weeks.

17
DSTO-TR-0908

6. Results
The results of the FWT tests are shown in Table 3 and Table 4. Results are shown as an
average value from the test batch together with the standard deviation.

Table 3 FWT test result matrix for direct ingress specimens

FWT Strength (MPa) FWT Strength (MPa)


Room Temperature Elevated Temp.
(104°C)
Identifier Exposure Average s.d Average s.d
a Dry 7.27 0.52 4.88 0.23
Baseline
b1 4 weeks 7.1 0.40 3.46 0.50
b2 9 weeks 5.43 0.42 2.09 0.20
b3 16 weeks 4.97 0.72 2.15 0.23
b4 32 weeks 4.91 0.47 2.43 0.17
b5 52 weeks 4.77 0.31 2.36 0.22

Table 4 FWT test result matrix for diffusion specimens

FWT Strength (MPa) FWT Strength (MPa)


Room Temperature Elevated Temp.
(104°C)
Identifier Exposure Average s.d Average s.d
c2 9 weeks 6.44 0.46 2.68 0.29
c0 Equilibrium 5.73 0.33 2.74 0.12
= 16 weeks
c3 32 weeks 5.81 0.26 2.56 0.15
c4 52 weeks 5.94 0.20 2.86 0.04

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DSTO-TR-0908

% Diffusion, Room Temp test


% Direct ingress, Hot 104°C test
% Diffusion, Hot 104°C test
8
% Direct ingress, Room Temp test
FW T Failure Stress (MPa)

0
0 4 8 12 16 20 24 28 32 36 40 44 48 52
Exposure Time (W eeks)

Figure 11 FWT test results for direct moisture ingress and diffusion moisture ingress tested
under room temperature and hot 104 °C test conditions.

Figure 11 plots the FWT failure stress (MPa) against the exposure time in weeks.
Figure 12 shows the FWT data normalised against the dry baseline result for each of
the two test temperatures considered.

19
DSTO-TR-0908

1.0
Normalised FWT Failure Stress

0.9
0.8
0.7
0.6
0.5
0.4
0.3 % Diffusion, Room Temp test
% Direct ingress, Hot 104°C test
0.2 % Diffusion, Hot 104°C test
% Direct ingress, Room Temp test
0.1
0.0
0 4 8 12 16 20 24 28 32 36 40 44 48 52
Exposure Time (Weeks)

Figure 12 Normalised FWT test data for direct moisture ingress and diffusion moisture ingress
tested under room temperature and hot 104°C test conditions

6.1 Fractographic Observations on FWT Coupons

Preliminary fractographic observations have been undertaken on the failed FWT test
articles. Table 5 shows the change of fracture mode for test temperature and exposure
time for the direct ingress specimens. For the direct ingress coupons, tested in either
the room temperature or hot condition, there are clear indications of a change from
cohesive, through mixed cohesive/adhesive to adhesive fracture surface appearance
which corresponds to a decrease in FWT strength as shown in Figure 11. The diffusion
ingress specimens showed cohesive failure in all cases even though decreases in FWT
strength of similar magnitude to the direct ingress specimens were observed.

Table 5 FWT Failure Modes for Direct Ingress specimens.


Exposure Time Room Temperature Elevated Temperature (104 °C , 220 F)
Baseline Cohesive Cohesive
4 weeks Cohesive 60% Cohesive
9 weeks 60% Cohesive Less than 20% cohesive
16 week 60% Cohesive Less than 20% cohesive
32 week 60% Cohesive Less than 20% cohesive
52 week 60% Cohesive Less than 20% cohesive

20
DSTO-TR-0908

The skin to core fillet was biased in distribution around the perimeter of the core cells
in some specimens as shown in Figure 13. Figure 14 shows the degradation of a direct
ingress coupon; adhesive failure predominates. Figure 15 clearly shows cracking at a
core node bond after being tested to failure in a FWT test. Figure 16 shows further
levels of extreme degradation on exposure to liquid water for a period of 16 weeks.
The fillet form was also skewed in some cases as seen in Figure 17. The ideal fillet form
would be that of an ‘equilateral’ triangle, distributed equally around all edges of the
cell. The fillet skew identified (Figure 17) shows an uneven distribution of adhesive
depth and shape from the top of the cell to the fillet depth. The skew may be due to the
cleaning procedure used to prepare the honeycomb material for bonding. Vapour
degreasing of honeycomb material may cause impurities to collect on certain sides and
to differing depths within the honeycomb cells. This effect has not yet been fully
investigated and will receive attention in future testing trials.

21
DSTO-TR-0908

Figure 13 Bias of the amount of adhesive remaining on the core of an environmentally degraded
FWT coupon.

Figure 14. FWT direct ingress test coupon showing the fillet to core bond separation after 16
weeks of exposure (test conducted at room temperature).

22
DSTO-TR-0908

Figure 15. Cracking through the skin to core fillet and into the node bond in a direct moisture
ingress sample after 16 weeks exposure.

Figure 16. Core cells of a failed FWT test coupon exposed via direct moisture ingress for a
period of 16 weeks. The failure surface is virtually purely adhesive.

23
DSTO-TR-0908

Fillet
skew

Figure 17. Skew and bias in skin to core fillet adhesive.

6.2 Dry Recovery of FWT Strength

6.2.1 SRM Dry Recovery

This dry recovery procedure (6 hours at 70°C) was applied to one direct ingress (ie:
drilled skin) FWT test coupon which had previously seen an exposure environment of
9 weeks at 70°C and 95% R.H. The specimen was then tested at room temperature.
The average FWT strength of coupons exposed to this condition (9 weeks at 70°C and
95% R.H.) was 5.43 MPa. The FWT strength for the coupon that had been “dried”
using the SRM method was 4.74 MPa, hence dry recovery was not successful using this
procedure.

6.2.2 Diffusion Based Dry Recovery

Results of FWT strength versus various drying times at 90°C are shown in Figure 18.
All tests were conducted at room temperature on diffusion ingress FWT coupons (ie:
non-drilled) which had previously seen 16 weeks exposure to 70°C and 85% R.H. This
shows that full recovery of FWT strength is achieved after a period of time required to
fully dry the composite skins (ie: 4 weeks).

24
DSTO-TR-0908

100

80
% FWT Recovery

60

40

20

0 1 2 3 4
Drying Time (weeks) at 90°C

Figure 18 Dry recovery of FWT strength (dried in oven at 90°C)

Specimens exposed to both diffusion and direct ingress for a period of one year were
evaluated using a dry recovery procedure of 4 weeks at 90°C to determine the amount
of recovery possible. Results are shown in Table 6.

Table 6 Dry recovery of specimens after one year of hot/wet environmental exposure

Exposure Type Average Dry Recovery


(%)
Diffusion Ingress – Room Temp. 86 (single result)
Diffusion Ingress – Elevated (104°C) 97 ± 3.2
Direct Ingress - Room Temp. 71 (single result)
Direct Ingress - Elevated (104°C) 72 ± 11.5

This shows a very good level of recovery for most of the diffusion ingress samples but
only partial recovery in the direct ingress cases.

25
DSTO-TR-0908

7. Discussion
Exposure of honeycomb sandwich structure to hot/wet environments has been shown
to decrease flatwise tension strength by up to 50% (Figure 12) at elevated temperature
and 25% at room temperature. The loss in FWT properties occurred in the first 16
weeks after which the values remained constant up to the end of the trial at 52 weeks.
Also, the difference between the FWT strength values of direct ingress and diffusion
ingress specimens is not great. This is a particularly interesting observation since the
failure mode of the diffusion coupons remains cohesive during the entire exposure
period while the direct ingress samples exhibit gross adhesive failure after long-term
exposure. Typically adhesive failure surfaces are associated with failure through the
aluminium oxide layer resulting in poor bond strength. Some preliminary surface
analysis on direct moisture ingress specimen fracture surfaces has been undertaken to
better understand the failure locus. Visually, the failure surface looks very much like
an adhesive failure however, surface analysis has indicated that the failure is through
the thin layer of adhesive containing the CR III chromium coating. The CR III layer
appears to have similar strength to the adhesive layer which may explain the similar
FWT values to the diffusion ingress samples but with markedly different failure mode.
Further analysis is required in order to adequately explain this observation.
This indicates that the adhesive bonds in this structure are able to withstand direct
moisture exposure for extended periods without losing significant bond strength
compared to a fully sealed structure. Thus the absolute value of flatwise tension
strength itself may not be an ideal guide to the integrity (in terms of liquid water
sealing) of the structure. This is an important point if proof tests such as PORTA-PULL
(which is essentially a field version of the flatwise tension test) are used to determine
the ‘soundness’ of a honeycomb sandwich structure. The locus of failure must be an
integral part of any such test.
Differences in the degradation mechanisms between direct and diffusion ingress cases
become apparent when the dry recovery of the specimens is considered (see
section 6.2). The diffusion specimens dry out and recover much of their original
properties which indicates that any reductions in FWT strength are due to moisture in
the adhesive causing plasticisation and not due to any permanent degradation of the
adhesive bond. The direct ingress specimens however did not recover their full FWT
strength (only about 70% of original baseline) which indicates that some level of
permanent adhesive bond degradation has occurred. Once the failure mode of the
component changes from cohesive to adhesive it is unlikely that dry recovery
procedures will restore full FWT strength.
Using dry recovery procedures to restore FWT strength in healthy components in
RAAF service is not likely to be productive as the moisture content of the skins will re-
establish again during normal service. For damaged components or those which
contain liquid water the danger with using elevated temperature heating (> 100°C) to
perform dry recovery is that any trapped liquid water may cause damage to the

26
DSTO-TR-0908

structure through steam pressure and may even accelerate the degradation of
surrounding adhesive bonds and promote corrosion.
The results reinforce the need to ensure that liquid water is prevented from entering a
honeycomb sandwich structure. Results up to one year of exposure indicate that well-
sealed honeycomb sandwich structures show no noticeable permanent bond
degradation. However, once liquid water has entered a structure, moisture will
transport through the adhesive at the nodes, the adhesive fillet bond and through
damage caused by corrosion. This highlights the need to ensure that all seals on
honeycomb sandwich structures are in good order and that the skins are not damaged
in such a way that liquid water may enter the structure. The detection of liquid water
within honeycomb sandwich panels is of great importance to ensure that degradation
similar to that demonstrated with the direct ingress coupons shown here does not
create permanent bond degradation.
Fractographic analysis has shown that the adhesive fillet which forms during
manufacture of honeycomb components is not always uniform in shape. The fillet is
often skewed or biased towards one side of the cell. The reason for this is not fully
explored here but may be associated with cleaning procedures applied to the core prior
to bonding.
No corrosion of the core was noted for any of the tests performed here where
specimens were exposed to humid air. The chromium coating on the honeycomb
(CRIII) was quite effective when exposed to high humidity levels and elevated
temperature (70°C and 95% R.H). Note that for samples tested fully immersed in water
at 70°C (Figure 3) significant corrosion damage was seen after a period of only 4 weeks.
This is quite a severe test case and would suggest that quite a long period of exposure
to humid air is required to cause significant corrosion damage.
Some evidence of node bond degradation has been observed using optical microscopy
(Figure 15). The level of node bond degradation was not under investigation in this
study and is thus not quantified. Future work will be aimed at examining the level of
node-bond degradation and the implications for structural integrity.

8. Summary
A long-term (52 week) hot/wet environmental exposure trial was conducted to
determine the effects on the flatwise tension (FWT) strength of honeycomb sandwich
structure.
In service, moisture in the form of either humid air or liquid water can enter a
honeycomb sandwich via 3 primary means:
• poor or damaged or degraded seals around penetrations or the edges of panels
• direct ingress of liquid water through damaged facesheets (skins)

27
DSTO-TR-0908

• diffusion of moisture from humid air through the epoxy matrix in the
composite skin
The trial exposed specimens to environments in which (1) humid air could freely enter
the core and condense as liquid water (direct ingress) and (2) specimens were fully
sealed and allowed only moisture to enter by diffusion through the epoxy matrix of the
skins (diffusion ingress).
Moisture transport in the honeycomb core has been observed to be directional and
biased along the ribbon direction due to the presence of adhesive node bonds.
The FWT values were seen to decrease by about 40-50% when tested at 104°C and
about 25% when tested at room temperature.
The FWT strength reduction associated with exposure to an aggressive environment
plateaus after approximately 16 weeks for periods of up to one year.
Both the direct ingress and diffusion ingress samples showed similar FWT strength
losses but markedly different modes of failure.
Diffusion ingress specimens failed cohesively in all cases while the direct ingress
samples failed predominantly adhesively after exposure periods of longer than about 9
weeks.
The fracture surface appearance alone may not be a reliable indicator of the bond
strength, however a cohesive failure is still an indication of good adhesive to core
interface bond integrity.
The F/A-18 SRM water removal procedure did not restore the FWT strength of
environmentally degraded test coupons.
Subsequent drying of the exposed samples at 90°C for periods of up to 4 weeks showed
that diffusion ingress samples recovered most of their original FWT strength however
direct ingress samples recovered only about 70% of their original baseline strength.
For the diffusion exposure case, up to 52 weeks of exposure to an aggressive
environment representative of the worst case service environment does not appear to
permanently degrade adhesive bond strength.
Absorbed moisture (either liquid water or humid air) does reduce FWT strength. In
this study moisture levels of up to 1.8% in the composite skins were achieved over the
exposure period. The maximum expected moisture uptake level in RAAF composite
aircraft components has been previously measured to be of the order of only 1.0%
maximum. Therefore the results of this study are somewhat conservative and
represent a worst case exposure scenario. Although the moisture content examined
was conservative it is not possible to reliably simulate the effects of long-term (many
years) exposure in such a laboratory based trial. Although the exposure conditions
here are used to accelerate any degradation processes the exact time dependent nature
of any degradation processes on RAAF aircraft is not known.
In the case of diffusion ingress, this is due to adhesive plasticisation, while in the direct
ingress samples permanent bond degradation was noted by change to an adhesive

28
DSTO-TR-0908

failure mode. This work shows that excluding water from within honeycomb
sandwich structures is of primary importance in order to prevent permanent bond
degradation and corrosion of the core.

9. Recommendations
• Honeycomb sandwich structures need to be maintained stringently to prevent
water from entering the structure through damaged seals or cracked composite
skins. Work in this report has showed that liquid water inside honeycomb
structures can result in failure of the adhesive bond to the core. This does not
appear to be the case for diffused moisture through the composite skins; for periods
of exposure up to one year.
• Drying panels to increase or recover FWT strength is not advised as a routine
maintenance procedure especially if it is not clear whether the structure contains
any water. Drying or bonding operations above 100°C need special consideration
since at these elevated temperatures liquid water can generate high steam
pressures that can damage components.
• Porta-Pull strength results (which consist of a test similar to FWT) taken from
aircraft structure should be treated with some caution. High Porta-Pull strength
values combined with a cohesive failure mode are required in order to establish
that a structure is sound.

10. References
1. Annex K, QETE Rudder Water Ingress Investigation Status Report, Composite
Repair and Engineering Development Program (CREDP), Minutes of the 13th
International Meeting, San Diego California U.S.A, 12-15 November 1997.
2. Annex H, NADEP/NI H-Stab Core Failure Investigation Progress Report,
Composite Repair and Engineering Development Program (CREDP), Minutes of
the 13th International Meeting, San Diego California U.S.A, 12-15 November 1997.
3. R. Vodicka and T.C. Radtke, “Moisture Transport in Composite Skinned
Honeycomb Sandwich Panels” presented at the 14th International CREDP meeting.
4. D.M Cise and R.S Lakes, ‘Moisture Ingression in Honeycomb Core Sandwich
Panels: Directional Aspects’, Journal of Composite Materials, Vol. 31, No. 22/1997.
Pp 2249-2263.

29
DSTO-TR-0908

5. J.M. Augl, ‘Moisture Diffusion in Impact Damaged Face Sheets of Composite


Sandwich Materials’, Naval Surface Warfare Centre, AD-A307990 NSWCCARDIV-
TR-96/002.
6. G. Clark, D.S. Saunders, T.J van Blaricun and M. Richmond, “Moisture Absorption
in Graphite Epoxy Laminates”, Composites Science and Technology, Vol. 39, 1990,
pp355-375
7. J.M Augl, A.E Berger, ‘Moisture Diffusion Analysis in Multilayer Composite
Materials by Finite Difference Analysis’, Naval Surface Warfare Centre, AD-
A306679 NSWCCARDIV-TR-95/013.

30
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Hot/Wet Environmental Degradation of Honeycomb Sandwich structure


Representative of F/A-18: Flatwise Tension Strength

T.C. Radtke, A. Charon and R. Vodicka

AUSTRALIA

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Author(s): T.C Radtke, A. Charon

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Representative of F/A-18: Flatwise Tension Strength
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4. AUTHOR(S) 5. CORPORATE AUTHOR

T.C. Radtke, A. Charon and R.Vodicka Aeronautical and Maritime Research Laboratory
PO Box 4331
Melbourne Vic 3001 Australia

6a. DSTO NUMBER 6b. AR NUMBER 6c. TYPE OF REPORT 7. DOCUMENT


DSTO-TR-0908 AR-011-146 Technical Report DATE
September 1999
8. FILE NUMBER 9. TASK NUMBER 10. TASK SPONSOR 11. NO. OF PAGES 12. NO. OF
M1/9/653 98/201 AIR 30 REFERENCES
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16. DELIBERATE ANNOUNCEMENT
No Limitations

17. CASUAL ANNOUNCEMENT Yes


18. DEFTEST DESCRIPTORS

Honeycomb structures or Honeycomb cores, Sandwich structures, Environmental degradation, Adhesive bonding,
Composite materials, F/A-18 aircraft

19. ABSTRACT

Aluminium honeycomb structure is widely used in the F/A-18 to save weight, however it is susceptible to degradation by
water. The US Navy has experienced in-flight failures of honeycomb components such as the rudder which are believed to
be due to moisture induced degradation. A long-term (52 week) environmental exposure trial was conducted to determine
the effects on the flatwise tension (FWT) strength of honeycomb sandwich structure. A conditioning temperature of 70°C
was chosen coupled with high-humidity exposure (85% and 95% R.H) to simulate a worst-case hot/wet environment. The
trial simulated specimens in which moisture could freely enter the core (direct ingress) and those which were fully sealed
and allowed only moisture diffusion through the epoxy matrix of the skins (diffusion ingress). The FWT strength was
measured at 4, 9, 16, 32 and 52 weeks exposure. The FWT values decreased by about 40-50% when tested at 104°C and
about 25% when tested at room temperature after exposure periods greater than 16 weeks. Both the direct ingress and
diffusion ingress samples showed similar FWT strength losses but markedly different modes of failure. Diffusion
specimens failed cohesively in all cases while the direct ingress samples failed predominantly adhesively after an exposure
time of about 9 weeks. Subsequent drying of the samples exposed to the conditioning environment showed that diffusion
ingress samples recovered most of their original FWT strength but direct ingress samples recovered only about 70% of their
original baseline strength. This work shows that excluding water from within honeycomb sandwich structures is of
primary importance in order to prevent permanent bond degradation and corrosion of the core.

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